Marcellus’ quote, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (I, iv, 100), is the overall theme to Act I, of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but can also relate to the whole play. When he said it, it was only to mean that something suspicious was occurring and things didn’t seem right. However, it encompasses a lot more than Marcellus planned it to. During this time setting, different events were happening which caused major corruption within the country. Even though Denmark from the outside world appeared as a well functioning nation, inside, people were beginning to suffer from the disease of corruption. “The cause and effect relationship begins to quickly spread the disease throughout the characters” (unknown author). In Hamlet, we see that as the play progresses, three main characters become rotten with corruption; Claudius, Polonius and Hamlet. Claudius and Hamlet try to hide it at first, but it soon becomes too much and they eventually can‘t hold it in any longer. Polonius on the other hand, is open about his motives from the beginning and doesn’t see anything wrong with what he is doing.
All throughout Act I we see different relations to the quote, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” To start off, they have an immoral King running the country. Not only did he kill his own brother for the crown, but then married his brother’s wife to gain power and the position of King. When Horatio states, “In what particular thought to work I know not, but in the gross and scope of my opinion, this bodes some strange eruption to our state” (I, i, 79-81), he is warning the audience that there is disorder in society, and it foreshadows that bad events have occurred and are to come.
Another example of rotten conditions in Act I is the presumption from other nations that Denmark is filled with low life drunks that cause ruckus all the time. Hamlet says, “This heavy headed revel east and west makes us traduced and taxed of other nations- They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase soil our addition; and indeed it takes from our achievements, thought performed at height, the pith and marrow of our attribution” (I, iv, 20-25). Hamlet is disappointed by the nation’s custom to celebrate everything by drinking. It lower’s their reputation as a country, as well as diminishes their achievements observed by others. He thinks people see past Denmark’s good deeds to society and just account them for the ugly attributes of sin.
Prior to the appearance of the Ghost, everyone believed that the Late King died of a snake bite. For some reason it never sat right with Hamlet, and he was definitely questionable about his uncle’s motives on marrying his mother so quickly after the funeral. However, he couldn’t prove Claudius had any part in the murder. Subsequent to talking with the Ghost of the Late King, Hamlet learns that Claudius, the King of Denmark, killed his father. The Ghost states, “’Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, a serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark is by a forged process of my death rankly abused; but know, thou noble youth, the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown” (I, v, 40-45). That quote marked a pivotal moment in the play, as well as defined the major sense of rottenness. It indeed proved Claudius to be a lying deceitful man, who is just power hungry. He went so far, to poison his own brother so he could gain the crown. About three months after the funeral, Claudius, married his own brother’s wife Gertrude and inherited the throne to become King of Denmark. After discovering the truths of his father’s murder, Hamlet made it imperative in his mind to kill Claudius. However, before plotting any permanent plans, he first wrote a play called, “The Mouse Trap” which perfectly depicted the murder of his father. He gathered everyone to watch it and put Horatio in charge of watching the King’s reaction to the murder scene. As the man died in the...